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Geography Is Destiny

Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year History

Ian Morris

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Geography Is Destiny Download image

ISBN10: 0374157278
ISBN13: 9780374157272


576 Pages



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When Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, the 48 percent who wanted to stay and the 52 percent who wanted to go each accused the other of stupidity, fraud, and treason. In reality, the Brexit debate merely reran a script written ten thousand years earlier, when the rising seas physically separated the British Isles from the European continent. Ever since, geography has been destiny—yet it is humans who get to decide what that destiny means.

Ian Morris, the critically acclaimed author of Why the West Rules—for Now, describes how technology and organization have steadily enlarged Britain’s arena, and how its people have tried to turn this to their advantage. For the first seventy-five hundred years, the British were never more than bit players at the western edge of a European stage, struggling to find a role among bigger, richer, and more sophisticated continental rivals. By 1500 CE, however, new kinds of ships and governments had turned the European stage into an Atlantic one; with the English Channel now functioning as a barrier, England transformed the British Isles into a United Kingdom that created a worldwide empire. Since 1900, thanks to rapid globalization, Britain has been overshadowed by American, European, and—increasingly—Chinese actors.

In trying to find its place in a global economy, Britain has been looking in all the wrong places. The ten-thousand-year story bracingly chronicled by Geography Is Destiny shows that the great question for the current century is not what to do about Brussels; it’s what to do about Beijing.


Praise for Geography Is Destiny

"[An] extraordinary story . . . At his core task of cramming 10,000 years of history into a single book, Morris succeeds triumphantly."Robert Colvile, The Times

"In this immensely detailed book, Morris effectively combines history, memoir, and current events. A remarkable story told with clear-minded authority."Kirkus Reviews

"Morris provides a very comprehensive history of Britain while keeping readers engaged. It is a skill to cover such a vast timeline and still keep a reader wanting more. A satisfying read for both readers new to British history those looking for a new take."Library Journal

"Sparkling . . . Written with verve and wit, this compulsively readable overview of British history is full of fascinating lore and incisive analysis."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


Fog in the Channel

When I was a boy, my grandfather told me – over and over again – that when he’d been my age, weather reports used to say ‘Fog in the Channel – Continent cut off’ (Figure 0.1)....

About the author

Ian Morris

Ian Morris is the Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and Professor in History at Stanford University and the author of the critically acclaimed Why the West Rules—for Now. He has published many scholarly books and has directed excavations in Greece and Italy. He lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California.

(c) Linda A. Cicero, Stanford News Service

Ian Morris

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